Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Playstation 4, PC
Whilst I generally consider myself a fan of the action-RPG genre (I absolutely love franchises like ‘Star Ocean’ and ‘Tales of’), there are so many titles that I’ve never had the chance to play. It’s criminal in a way, especially since so many of them have cult followings that sing their praises as often as they can.
The original Nights of Azure is something I’ve heard a lot of positive talk about, so I’d always been intrigued to check it out. Alas, with a plethora of titles releasing over the years and not enough time to play them all, it’s eluded me and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to check it out.
Fortunately, its sequel Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon has just released on the Nintendo Switch and I’ve had the chance to play through it. Does it actually manage to live up to the constant recommendations I’ve had to play the original though, or does it simply not compare to the action-RPGs I’ve already grown fond over my years of gaming?
As mentioned, I didn’t play the original game, so I’m not sure how much it affects the plotline of Nights of Azure 2. I never felt like I was out of the loop or that I didn’t know what was going on though, so I think it’s easy for newcomers to come straight into the game and not feel completely out of depth.
You take on the role of Aluche Antatoria, an agent of the organisation Curia that helps protect the citizens of the world from the demons have that besieged it. During a mission to help escort a priestess to a safe location, Aluche finds out that it’s actually one of her childhood friends, Liliana, and that she’s going to be used as a sacrifice for the Moon Queen – the evil being that rules over the demons.
Naturally, she doesn’t want this for Liliana, but thanks to a surprise assault from the demons she finds herself unable to prevent her disappearance. The only way for Aluche to live through her wounds is for her body to be embedded with demon powers, thus she is reborn more powerful than before. In her new state, she gives herself one mission: to find the missing Liliana and also find a way to vanquish the malicious Moon Queen for good.
If I’m going to be honest, I didn’t find that the story offered anything special and I wasn’t too invested in it. It’s not that it’s outright bad or anything, but rather that it never really made me feel anything towards each situation. Some of the writing was good (though some of it bad too) and I enjoyed the character interactions (especially those that took a comical turn), but it never did anything to pull me in like most RPGs do. Oh, it’s probably worth noting that there’s loads of busty ladies in revealing outfits throughout the game that get into some interesting situations though, so if that’s your thing you’ll probably have a happier time with it.
At least the combat is a lot of fun, with it playing out in a musou-style title with plenty of enemies to take down in quick-paced, button-mashing showdowns. You’ve got a good variety of combos to utilise against foes too, as well as some special abilities that are a bit more impressive.
You’ll also take an AI ally into battle with you (that you can perform some pretty sweet co-op attacks with), as well as two Servans – little helpers that you find out and about in dungeons that provide a variety of different support techniques in combat. These Servans can evolve too, so they’re always improving and finding new ways to provide assistance to you in their own unique way.
In fairness though, the combat of Nights of Azure 2 is always fun – it probably helps that I’m a fan of musou games anyway, but I never got bored slaying demons. More die-hard action-RPG enthusiasts might be a little underwhelmed in some instances, especially when it treads into button-mashing territory with some of the easy fodder that’s there to take down, but it also features some epic boss battles which constantly surprised me with the more intricate methods you needed to use in order to defeat them.
Outside of combat, you can level up a fairly flexible skill tree to keep improving Aluche’s abilities, whilst you can also equip an assortment of different items that affect your stats in varying ways. It’s quite an intricate little system that eventually allows you to combine items to maximise their effects, so it’s worth getting stuck into if you want to get the most out of the game’s enjoyable combat mechanics.
The main story missions of Nights of Azure 2 consist of the player exploring through the locations around them and completing set objectives, all whilst helping clear the world of the demons that have enveloped it in darkness. It’s pretty straight forward stuff really and features nothing you wouldn’t have seen before.
However, there’s an interesting twist to gameplay: a timer is in place in which you have to complete your objectives within, otherwise it’s game over. You only have a certain amount of nights to clear out all of your missions too, with each night representing a different phase of the Moon’s cycle. If the Moon disappears at the end of the cycle and you haven’t beat the nasty boss of the chapter, you’ll have to head to the start of the chapter again.
Now I’ll admit, I’ve never been a big fan of timers like this in games in the past – it adds a level of pressure to the experience that I just don’t like dealing with. However, it worked quite well in Nights of Azure 2. Rather than being overwhelmed by it, I just acted with urgency and streamlined everything I did. I never felt like I had to rush through anything nor did I feel like I actually missed out on any part of the game – I just cracked on and didn’t look back. That being said, I never got into a situation where I was cutting it a bit close with time either, so maybe the timer is a bit more generous than it initially lets on…
Besides the main story missions that you need to complete, there are plenty of side quests to invest yourself in too. These side quests typically benefit your allies and teach you more about them – there’s a wide selection of different companions that you can take out with you on the battlefield, but it’s during these side quests that you’ll learn more about them and forge genuine relationships. The character interactions are probably the strongest point of Nights of Azure 2’s narrative, so I was glad to see there were plenty of optional instances that I was able to get stuck into.
Interestingly, the aforementioned Servans can actually help you reach inaccessible areas in the game, so taking a specific combination of them out with you can open up different pathways and show more of the game world to you. The only problem is that you can only take two Servans out with you at a time, and you can only change them when back at your home base before you start missions. It eliminates some exploration opportunities in the game when you’re out and about, with plenty of paths blocked off to you unless you’re willing to head back to your base and swap out your Servans. It wouldn’t normally be too much of an issue, but when you’ve got a timer lingering over you it’s easy to think that it just might not be worth it.
There are a few obvious flaws to be found on the technical side too, with Nights of Azure 2’s camera often found struggling to keep up with the action when you’re battling enemies in tighter spaces. There is an auto-aim system in place that does help you out, but even that could struggle to synchronise itself with the camera and would often let it get trapped in awkward places in the environment. It’s not a constant problem, but when the camera goes a little wayward it can take you out of the action a bit.
There were some inconsistencies with the game’s performance too, with plenty of frame-rate drops to be found. Don’t get me wrong, they never made the game unplayable, but there were a few instances during some busy battles where they became hard to ignore. At least the visuals were decent though – naturally, it isn’t going to look as good as its Playstation 4 counterpart, but I certainly found that the Nintendo Switch was capable of showing off Nights of Azure 2’s pretty side.
As far as action-RPGs go, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon provides a decent little experience that’s full of things to do and demons to slay in enjoyable fast-paced combat. I never got bored taking down enemies and there’s a surprising amount of depth to it all – you’re certainly going to be invested in the game for some time.
However, a lacking story and some performance issues stop it from being a must own title. I don’t know if the problems were limited to just the Nintendo Switch release, but I saw plenty of frame-rate drops throughout the game and even a few camera issues cropped up during some combat instances. There was never anything that made the game unplayable, but it was certainly noticeable throughout.
Despite this, Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon is by no means a bad game and I enjoyed playing through it. It just lacked some polish and didn’t have a world that I felt particularly invested in – from a gameplay perspective though, there’s certainly be plenty of fun to be had throughout.